THE JACOBSENS ARRIVED IN GUANGZHOU IN 2008, WHEN SUBWAY WAS THE ONLY WESTERN FOOD OUTLET AND ER SHA WAS STILL WILD AND OVERGROWN. ELEVEN YEARS AND LOTS OF CHANGE LATER, IT’S TIME FOR KAREN, GLENN, AND THEIR CHILDREN, AALIYAH, JOSIAH AND ANGELICA TO RETURN TO CANADA.
It seems that Karen and Glenn Jacobsen are pretty good at taking life as it comes. “Glenn signed our first overseas teaching contract the day before we got married,” says Karen. “We told our families about it the day after. It was only supposed to be for a year, but it turned into 15!”
After a short time in Korea, the couple made the move to AISG, where they have both enjoyed diverse and challenging careers. For Glenn, that meant teaching math and science, both subjects he loves. As a sports lover, he also coached basketball and High School varsity girls volleyball.
He then moved into teaching eighth grade – “That really excited me because I love the energy that Middle School kids have” – while dabbling in tech and coding, before being asked to take on the new role of High School STEM and Robotics teacher.
Inspired by the skill on show from students in class, Glenn started an after-school robotics team, which quickly grew in size and expertise. “We started out with fewer than 20 kids. Then, incredibly, the next year it doubled, and the year after that it doubled again. We now have a very strong system where the older kids teach the younger ones, and everyone aims to be their best together. It’s great to see them having fun and gaining a passion.”
A Love of Art
Meanwhile, Karen started off as a classroom teacher, and then took time off when the couple’s daughter, Angelica arrived. But her true love was art, and AISG gave her the opportunity to pursue her dream. “I had a fine art degree, but I didn’t quite know how to use it. When a part-time art position came along, I applied and got the job, which gave me a great chance to be mentored by (former Elementary School Principal) Gary MacPhie, a wonderful growing opportunity.”
Karen was inspired to introduce new programs, including the Makey Makey project, which she talked about at a 21st Century Learning Conference. “That was huge, and all stemmed from an inspiring idea I had that I could have kept to myself, but I was encouraged to say let’s try and see what happens.”
Karen’s creativity and thoughtfulness are well-known around campus. She often writes haikus or bakes cakes for friends and colleagues. “I just like to bring joy to other people, and sometimes a light-hearted note or a baked treat put on their desk to say “Hey, you inspire me,” really makes their day,” she says.
From China to Canada
All three of the couple’s children, Angelica, Josiah and Aaliyah, were raised in Guangzhou, and the family is clear on the positives that brought. “We really like the fact that our kids have had a great school to be at, with such a safe learning environment,” says Glenn. “They have been challenged to become great students, to think globally, and they are comfortable with whoever they are with, no matter where they are from.”
Now, after more than a decade in China, it’s time for the family to make the move back to Canada. After so long, they are expecting their home country to feel a little strange at first. “We’re going to try and learn how to be Canadian again,” says Karen. “We haven’t done that for a really long time, but hey, let’s give it a try!”
It’s no surprise they are all going to miss Guangzhou. “I’ll miss the school, the church we go to, the warm winters, the Turkish food,” says Glenn. “There are such good, close connections here, it’s not always a given that you have a good group of people who get along as well as they do here.”
And for Karen, it’s the human connections she will miss most. “You have your family, the people that you came with, but AISG and the surrounding community has been like a bigger family for us all. I’m going to miss the beautiful friends, amazing colleagues and mentors we met here.”
|Glenn teaching Middle School Robotics.||Karen teaching Elementary School Art.|